- If conservative treatments have not been successful and you experience pain and limited motion then surgery may be a therapeutic option for your osteoarthritis.
- The posoperative rehabilitation process is often lengthy, and complications are possible – please give the decision to have surgery appropriate consideration.
- A discussion with your doctor and then an informed decision aware of the potential risks and benefits of surgery should be made.
While most people with osteoarthritis won’t need surgery, it might be an option for you if you experience severe joint damage, extreme pain, or very limited motion as a result of your OA and other more conservative treatments have been unsuccessful. The decision to use surgery depends on several things including your level of disability, the intensity of pain, the interference with your lifestyle, your age, other health problems, and your occupation. Currently, more than 80 per cent of the surgeries performed for osteoarthritis involve replacing the hip or knee joint. An orthopaedic surgeon can assist you in determining if surgery is an option for you to relieve the pain from osteoarthritis.
Surgery may be performed to:
- remove loose pieces of bone and cartilage from the joint if they are causing pain or symptoms of buckling or locking
- resurface (smooth out) articular cartilage and bones
- reposition bones (osteotomy)
- replace joints
The benefits of surgery may include improved movement, pain relief, and improved joint alignment.
When should I have surgery?
Surgery should be resisted when symptoms can be managed by other treatment modalities. If your function and mobility remains compromised despite maximal conservative treatment, and/or if your joint is structurally unstable, you should be considered for surgical intervention. If your pain has progressed to unacceptable levels – that is, pain at rest and/or night-time pain – you should also be considered a surgical candidate. Thus the typical indications for surgery are debilitating pain and major limitation of functions such as walking and daily activities, or impaired ability to sleep or work despite other therapy.
What surgical options are there?
There are several different types of joint surgery.
Arthroplasty / joint replacement
Surgery may be used to replace a damaged joint with an artificial joint. Arthroplasty, or joint replacement surgery, is most often done to repair hips and knees, but also is used to repair shoulders, elbows, fingers, ankles and toes. Currently the most common indication for knee and hip replacement is osteoarthritis.
Joint replacement is one of the most successful procedures available in modern medicine, but still has its risks and potential complications.